Nominated for the 2007 Academy Award® in the Best Foreign Language Film category is Mongol, a captivating epic about the legendary Mongolian warrior and conqueror Genghis Khan, born Temudgin, in 1162.
Focusing on his formative years, Oscar® nominated Russian writer-director Sergei Bodrov reveals the man, not as the evil brute accused of killing millions, but as an inspiring, fearless, visionary leader.
The feature spans from nine year old Temudgin (Odnyam Odsuren) picking Borte (Bayertsetseg Erdenebat) as his wife-to-be, through his captivity and enslavement, and to the battle that sealed his destiny as the leader Genghis Khan.
The rivalry between the lead characters is outstandingly portrayed by the international cast.
Playing the adult Temudgin is the award winning Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, who appeared in Takashi Kitano's samurai film Zatôichi, and in Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe, for which he received the Upstream Award for Best Actor at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.
Casting a Japanese actor for the role of Genghis Khan may appear odd at first, however, explains Bodrov, many Japanese see the Mongol ruler as one of their own. "The Japanese had a very famous ancient warrior who disappeared, and they think he went to Mongolia and became Genghis Khan. Mongolians can claim he's Mongolian, but the Japanese, think they know who he is. Actually, that's true in many places: in Kazakhstan, they think he's a Kazakh; in Korea, they think he's Korean."
Depicting Jamukha, Temudgin's blood brother and mortal enemy, is Honglei Sun, one of the best actors in China, who appeared in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home, and Tsui Hark's Seven Swords.
Other than the above two actors, the rest of the cast is Mongolian. Khulan Chuluun portrays the adult Borte, Temudgin's lifelong love and most trusted advisor. Chuluun is a non-professional actress but her demeanor and expression, says Bodrov, proved to be "wonderful."
As the strongly minded young Temugdin and Borte, Odsuren and Erdenebat deliver enchanting performances.
Filming for approximately 25-weeks was an immense challenge. It took place on rough and rudimentary remote locations in China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, some 12 to 15 hours by car, away from the nearest town. These lands were part of the Mongolian Empire, and home to young Temudgin. The monumental production was made with an approximate crew of 600, in addition to stuntmen, and 1,000 extras.
The breathtaking cinematography, by the Dutch Rogier Stoffers (Oscar®-winning Character, and Disturbia), and by the Russian, Sergey Trofimov (Night Watch and Day Watch), impressively captures the 12th Century nomadic Mongol tribal life as well as the vivid horse-mounted battle sequences.
Two accomplished film editors joined the team, Academy Award® winner Zach Staenberg (The Matrix trilogy), and BAFTA Award winner Valdís Óskardóttir (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Celebration).
Carrying the feature's exotic tone are the rhythms by Altan Urag, an eight-person Mongolian folk-rock band, as well as the original soundtrack by Finnish composer Tuomas Kantelinen.
Mongol was inspired by Russian historian Lev Gumilev's book, 'The Legend of the Black Arrow,' and the poem 'The Secret history of the Mongols,' written by an unknown author sometime after Genghis Khan's death in 1227. A copy of the poem, believed to date to the 14th Century, was discovered in China in the 19th Century, and is thought to be the only Mongolian historical record from the era.
Director Bodrov's masterpiece has it all, action, romance, top-notch talent, and stunning visuals, making this feature a definite must see.